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Randy's Corner

About North Georgia's publisher Randy Golden contributes a look into life in north Georgia, the Web, or anything that's on his mind.

With the end of the Outer Perimeter, traffic problems in the northern arc of counties will reach critical levels within the next few years. It has gotten so bad that, when possible, I avoid weekday rush-hour traffic by traveling at off-hours, mostly after 9am or before 4 pm. This generally cuts 20-30% off the time it takes to move from place to place in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Sonny Perdue has come up with the idea of coordinating the lights in the Atlanta Region to relieve some of the traffic pressure. With or without the Outer Perimeter, I fully support this idea. For a little too long local fiefdoms have been allowed to set lights for political reasons. For example, when a local politician lives on a road and wants the light to be on a cycle, rather than tripped, and traffic planners accommodate the politician's whim. This is wrong and must stop. Stopping traffic to sit at a light without reason is a big mistake for our environment.

During a recent journey to New York (actually Long Island, but I don't think it makes any difference) I was suprised by how well I flowed through the various municipalities. I could travel from my hotel to the conference center and only hit a couple of lights, a distance of some 7 miles. It was stunning because there were a lot more cars on this road than the roads I normally travel. Total time for the 7 mile trip? 16-17 minutes. Of course, you had to do the speed limit to hit each of the lights, but I didn't mind going 35.

What's New York doing that we don't? Well, the "good ol' boy" school of political influence ended up there at the turn of the last century, so there aren't political stops. Second, since the county governments control the main arteries it reduces the sit and wait times artificially created by municipalities to influence rush hour drivers to go a different way (yes, they do that).

Another option is speed limits based on the time of day. Believe it or not, by reducing the speed limit (but not stopping the cars) during rush hour, some towns have had luck in reducing the drive time for rush hour commuters. Innovative auto-makers like Volkswagon are also looking at "driver assistant" packages that help avoid obsticles and slow vehicles when problems arise. According to one study, such packages in just 20% of all cars can eliminate most congestion by smoothing out traffic jams without increasing sit and wait times at traffic lights.

Of course, Americans are probably going to have a problem with a car's computer taking over and "assisting" them. Come to think of it, though, maybe not. After all, the politician have been assisting them for years, and I only occasionally hear a scream or two.

Randy Golden, Publisher

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